New Transportation Study Says Urban Sprawl Causes Congestion

Driven Apart For years now, The Urban Mobility Report, issued every two years by the Texas Transportation Institute, has been regarded by many transportation and urban planning experts as the ‘bible’ on traffic congestion issues.   The report has been used to justify large road improvement projects throughout the country in an attempt to solve major metropolitan traffic congestion problems.

However, a new report from CEOs for Cities offers a dramatic critique of the 25 year old industry standard created by the Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Report (UMR).  The report provides a new look at traffic congestion and suggests there are additional reasons why  Americans spend so much time in traffic.  The report

The new report titled Driven Apart: How sprawl is lengthening our commutes and why misleading mobility measures are making things worse says the solution to the congestion problem has much more to do with how we build our cities than how we build our roads.  The report says that we need new metrics like 'total trip distance’ and ‘total travel time’, metrics that are not currently in the The Urban Mobility Report.

The report ranks how long residents in the nation’s largest 51 metropolitan areas spend in peak hour traffic, and in some cases the rankings are almost the opposite of those listed in the 2009
Urban Mobility Report.  Here’s a list from the report of the 10 cities (out of the 51 studied) where commuters spend the most time getting to work every day. 

Cities Avg. hours per year in traffic
Detroit – Warren – Livonia 179
Indianapolis – Carmel 166
Louisville / Jefferson County 165
Raleigh – Cary 161
Birmingham – Hoover 159
Oklahoma City 154
St. Louis 153
Memphis 152
Richmond 147
Kansas City 142

The report says that compact cities are the real answer to reducing traffic delays.  The key is to have land use patterns and transportation systems that enable their residents to take
shorter trips and minimize the burden of peak hour travel.   These conclusions are very different than those of the UMR, which has long been used to measure traffic congestion and has been used to justify road improvement projects costing millions of dollars.

It’s nice to have a fresh look at the traffic congestion issue.  Thanks CEO for Cities!

For more information, you can access the report (exec summary AND the detailed report) and supporting press release, graphics, etc. by heading over to

Intelligent Transportation Scenario: Advanced Traveler Information Systems

LONDN023 I’m wondering when in the future will we arrive at a place where there will be open standards for traffic information that will allow us to have Advanced Traveler Information Systems.  

Traffic information is certainly needed by everyone.  That means we need to have it available on all sorts of devices using all sorts of applications.   So why not open standards so the information can be available and used to help us all get from point A to point B in less time and with less frustration/hassle?

I see a future where Advanced Traveler Information Systems are capable of advising travelers of suggested travel route changes due to traffic congestion changes…all in real time.  An integrated system would need to be able to draw real-time information from any type of transportation in the region, then process that information against the traveler’s requests/needs,  then provide that information back to the traveler in the format needed for the traveler’s device and application.

Here is a scenario….

Monday evening

1. Jack receives an email from his global head of marketing that an important client will be visiting London to discuss a new deal. Jack is to host dinner for the global client on Friday evening at Nobu in London.

2. Jack books a table over the Internet for 1900 on Friday and puts the details into his Lotus Calendar.


10:00 – The day has not started well: Jack is in back-to-back meetings the entire day with some client issues.

17:30 – Jack’s online calendar reminds him of the dinner and alerts him of his travel options based on reaching the restaurant by 1900:

  1. Taxi: due to ongoing road works on the route, there is a bad traffic jam along the route – he would need to leave the office by 1800. The estimated cost was £25.
  2. Bus: as there were bus lanes throughout the route, the road works would not impact the journey too significantly – he would need to leave the office by 1810. The cost would be £2.
  3. Tube & walking: the Piccadilly line was currently on schedule; he would need to start walking to the Tube by 1815. The cost would be £3.

The application on Jack’s smartphone recommends that Jack go with option 4:  Tube and walking.

18:20  -  On Jack’s walk to the Tube, his smartphone alerts him of a security incident on the Bakerloo Tube line. If he were to continue with the planned route, he would arrive at the restaurant only at 1945. It advises him to change his route by walking to the nearest bus stop. The bus route would get him to the restaurant at 1910.

19:10 – Jack arrives at the restaurant slightly late but thankfully his guest has not yet arrived – the guest took a taxi and was caught in a traffic jam!

The successful outcome in the scenario above is dependent on open transportation information standards and Advanced Traveler Information Systems, including

  • An extensive sensor-based transportation system operating in the region where real-time information is collected on every type of transportation available to the traveler
  • An back office analytics-rich system capable of analyzing the millions of transactions coming into the system for each mode of transportation
  • Applications available on personal mobile handheld devices capable of interacting with the regional Advanced Traveler Information System.  The mobile application needs to be able to become an agent for the person, acting on stored personal preferences, the calendar for the day, and the real-time information available from the regional system.

10 Social Media Tools to Navigate Your City

Today out on the Building a Smarter Planet blog (, there is a post by Josh Catone from Mashable titled Smarter Transportation: 10 Social Media Tools to Navigate Your City.  The post contains Josh’s list of social media sites that can help you plan routes from one location in a city to another.  The tools each have their own unique features and benefits….each is different in their own way. 

Here is my summary of Josh’s ten top tools. 

  1. Google Maps  We all know this tool for driving, but did you know it can help you plan a walking route too?  It can also help you find those Starbuck’s along your route.  But Google also offers even more features, like real-time traffic conditions.
  2. Waze  Waze specializes in real-time traffic information, collecting that information from it’s users.
  3. Wayfaring  Another Google Maps mashup, Wayfaring focuses on having users share experiences they had during their trip.
  4. Walk Score     For those people really into walking.  It tells you how ‘walk-friendly’ your route is going to be.
  5. MapMyRide   For those who love to ride bikes, this helps you preview that next ride.  It will even estimate the calories you will burn.
  6. HopStop  If you are into public transportation (trains, buses, subways, etc.) check out this tool. 
  7. Zimride   Josh likes this carpooling tool, which is cleverly integrated with Facebook.  If you are into carpooling, you might also want to check out iCarpool
  8. RideCharge   This tool helps you pre-book a taxi ride via your mobile device.
  9. GasBuddy   This tool delivers up-to-date gas prices, so you can plan out where to get that tank filled-up along your route.
  10. FuelFrog   This site helps you monitor how your car consumes gas, helping you learn how to reduce your fuel consumption.

For much more discussion of these tools, plus links to others, check out Josh’s post at

iCarpool wins the $50K Intelligent Transportation Systems Challenge

iCarpool I have previously blogged about the $50,000 Intelligent Transportation Traffic Challenge, well, the results are in and a winner has been announced. 

Earlier this summer, the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America),  in partnership with IBM and Spencer Trask Collaborative Innovations, launched a global challenge to identify innovative ideas for combating transportation congestion, and to find and fund a solution or start-up that can reduce environmental impact, strengthen economic productivity, move people more efficiently or prevent accidents.

The competition attracted 120 start-ups and solutions from 20 countries, and this was whittled down to nine finalists.

The winner, announced during an IBM session at the 16th ITS World Congress in Stockholm, was iCarpool (  iCarpool received a cash prize of $50,000 as well as development and implementation support to pursue turning their innovative ideas into real-world solutions.

Millions of people drive alone for commute, long distance trips or personal trips such as a shopping trip or an event.  iCarpool’s idea is an internet-based service  that offers one site for carpooling, which can result in substantial monetary savings by sharing fuel, toll and parking costs. It says it is building infrastructure which provides one multi-modal view with the best options other than driving alone.   Unlike a rideshare bulletin board, carpool listing service or zip code matching service, iCarpool uses high precision trip matching to find the best carpool match.

Check it out at

Another Study Confirms Los Angeles Is Most Congested City In America

Just yesterday, I blogged about an IBM study that found that Los Angeles causes commuters ‘the most pain’.  Check out that post:  Los Angeles is Most Painful For Commuters.    For today’s post, I found another study that confirms the IBM study’s findings that L.A. is the most congested study. 

INRIX, a leading provider of traffic and navigation services in North America, recently announced their mid-year INRIX National Traffic Scorecard special report.  The report findings confirm that traffic congestion across the country is rising due to signs of economic recovery, initial rollouts of highway construction projects funded by federal stimulus packages, and lower fuel prices.  

The data for the INRIX study comes, in part, from tens of billions of data points from INRIX's network of over one million GPS-enabled cars and trucks traveling across nearly one million miles of roads.

INRIX analyzed and ranked the worst metro traffic bottlenecks across the country and found that New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago continued to
dominate the rankings in commuting nightmares.  According to the report, the top 10 most congested cities in the first half of 2009 were:

  1. Los Angeles, Calif.
  2. New York, N.Y.
  3. Chicago, Ill.
  4. Washington, D.C. (from 5th in first half of 2008)
  5. Dallas, Texas (from 4th in first half of 2008)
  6. Houston, Texas
  7. San Francisco, Calif.
  8. Boston, Mass.
  9. Seattle, Wash.
  10. Philadelphia, Pa.

Comparing to the IBM study I blogged about yesterday, the top cities causing ‘Commuter Pain’ on that list are 1) Los Angeles, 2) Washington, D.C., and 3) Miami.  It’s interesting to note that Miami did not even make the INRIX top 10.  Perhaps the commuters in Miami get easily frustrated by traffic?  🙂

The INRIX report also provides information on commercial freight traffic concentration.   Findings show that while the nation's busiest long haul freight roadways cut across 28 states, more than 95% of this mileage comes from just 10 states – including Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas.

For more information about this report,  see the complete National Traffic Scorecard, visit: and to view videos about the report go to

Friday Gadget: i-Real Personal Mobility Device

toyota-irealToyota has been experimenting with Personal Mobility devices for some time (i-unit and i-swing concepts).  Their latest prototype is called i-REAL.  It is a personal mobility vehicle which uses three wheels (two at the front and one at the back).  The ‘driver’ sits in a chair when operating the i-Real.

It operates in both low-speed and high-speed modes.  When operating in low-speed mode, it shortens its wheelbase to allow it to move naturally among pedestrians (and at a similar eyesight height) without taking up a large amount of sidewalk space.  In high-speed mode, the wheelbase lengthens to provide a lower center of gravity and better driving performance.  The i-Real is like a three-wheeler Segway and hits 20mph.

Watch the 4 minute video from BBC here.  Interesting part of demo starts about 2 minutes into the video.

Toyota says the i-REAL ensures safe handling [both to the driver and those around the vehicle] by employing perimeter monitoring sensors to detect whenever a collision with a person or object is imminent.  It alerts the driver through noise and vibrations and alerts people around it of its movements through the use of light and sound.   The i-Real concept car is designed to communicate with other i-Reals, allowing you to find and navigate to them on command.

$50k ITS Congestion Challenge

Have an innovative idea on how to solve traffic congestion?   The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), in partnership with IBM and Spencer Trask Collaborative Innovations (STCI), has launched a global challenge to identify innovative ideas for combating transportation congestion.

ITS America is challenging commuters, transportation experts, entrepreneurs and academic researchers to come up with the best ideas to reduce traffic congestion and lessen its economic and environmental impact.

At stake is a $50,000 prize presented at the 16th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems in Stockholm, Sweden, this September.  The winner will also receive the development support needed to put his or her idea to work.

Winning ideas are expected to focus on the following five areas:

  1. Speed and efficiency:  Using technology to reduce delays and transport people and goods efficiently and reliably.
  2. Behavioral impact:  Innovative ways to convince users to choose options that reduce congestion.
  3. Safety:  Preventing accidents, improving incident response and providing more timely, accurate transportation information.
  4. Sustainability:  Lowering energy use and emissions while actively managing traffic and reducing congestion.
  5. Economic competitiveness: Improve productivity through new technologies (e.g., wireless applications and mobility tools).

For additional information and to enter submissions, visit Join the ITS Congestion Challenge

Smart Bridges for a Smarter Planet

Bridges are critical elements of our transportation infrastructure.  Bridge failure, as we saw with the collapse of the I-35 bridge outside of Minneapolis, can be catastrophic.  Today, the developed nations of the world are having to deal with many bridges that are aging.  How can we monitor those bridges to better predict when they might fail?  In the United States there are a reported 600,000 bridges.

Looking for structural problems in bridges mostly still requires a visual inspection, The traditional practice of bridge inspection and bridge management has many limitations.  The most significant limitation is that the data collected is based solely upon visual inspection, augmented with limited mechanical methods such as hammer sounding or prying.   Visual inspection is highly variable, subjective and inherently unable to detect invisible deterioration, damage or distress.

In the future, we will have continuous electronic monitoring of bridges using a network of sensors at critical points.  Sensors can deliver volumes of data about how a bridge handles heavy traffic, harsh winters, high winds or other conditions.  Sensors can also alert us to serious problems long before they might be apparent to a human inspector during a visual inspection.

Picture Graphic from Businessweek.  See original image here

The bridge that crashed in Minneapolis in 2007 was replaced by a new smarter bridge, design and built in about a year.   It is a very modern bridge and is probably the smartest bridge in the USA and perhaps the world.   It is filled with sensors that are meant to monitor all the details necessary to prevent any collapse.   The new bridge holds more than 300 sensors that measure the effects of corrosion and temperature changes.   The sensor system will track weather, stresses and it will monitor traffic.  There’s also an automatic de-icing system which should really come in handy.  In addition to helping transportation officials monitor the health of the bridge, researchers at the University of Minnesota are analyzing the data to help design bridges better able to handle all the stresses.

For more information on Smart Bridges, see the following articles